Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They're Mad and They're Not Going to Take It Anymore

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They're Mad and They're Not Going to Take It Anymore

Article excerpt

FED up with excessive corruption in Rhode Island's state government, a coalition of 13 statewide groups have announced plans to launch a sweeping ethics and campaign reform effort.

Called RIght Now!, the coalition brings together churches, environmental organizations, businesses, and legal, education, and public-interest groups. Representatives from each sector met at the Statehouse in Providence Wednesday to state their goal of restoring sagging public confidence in state government.

"Rhode Island can't turn the clock back, but we can make it right for the future," said Alan Hassenfeld, president and chief executive officer of Hasbro Inc., who serves as chairman of RIght Now! "We cannot wait any longer."

Many people here say that particularly during the past year this tiny New England state of about 1 million people has lived up to an infamous nickname: Rogues Island.

Problems started snowballing in January, when Gov. Bruce Sundlun (D) ordered 45 banks and credit unions to close after the private insurance fund that insured their deposits collapsed. About 300,000 Rhode Islanders had money invested with the institutions, which were required to obtain Federal Deposit insurance. Since then, most of the banks and credit unions have reopened, but the event touched off a controversy when it was revealed in televised hearings that a number of public officials were able to withdraw their money just days before the crisis.

Other political scandals have also wracked the state. They have ranged from a mayor who was indicted for extortion to lawyers who were suspended on charges of lending money to a judge before whom they had argued cases.

"It's a small state, so there are better opportunities for the kind of incestuous networking that occurs," explains Frederick Massie, communications director for Save the Bay, an environmental group that is a member of the coalition.

A recent survey by the Becker Institute, a polling firm in Sudbury, Mass., found that of 800 Rhode Islanders polled, 98 percent were angry about the year's events; 82 percent noted political corruption as a serious problem, up from 35 percent two years ago; and 40 percent would like to leave the state. …

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